Radio: Controlling people

17 October 2011

BBC World Service, available indefinitely as a podcast or listen online via the iPlayer

From the programme’s website: “The world’s population is due to reach seven billion people this year, and by around 2050 it could grow by yet another two billion.

Using India as an exemplar, Professor Matthew Connelly of Columbia University, New York, documents a global campaign that began with the best humanitarian ideals, but which led to authoritarian control over some of the world’s poorest citizens.

He uncovers a story of tragic mistakes and sometimes terrible human rights abuses, and shows how we will be living with the consequences for decades to come.”

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Radio: compulsory sterilisation

23 August 2010

BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 25 August 2010, 21.00-21.45, repeated on Saturday 28 August 2010, 22.15-23.00, available after broadcast on iPlayer.

“Edward Stourton chairs a live debate in which Professor David Marsland defends his view that the mentally and morally unfit should be sterilised. Professor David Marsland is Emeritus Scholar of Sociology and Health Sciences at Brunel University, London and Professorial Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Buckingham. He argues that the only way to prevent the abuse and neglect of children whose parents are incapable of looking after them is to stop them from being born in the first place. It should be open to police and social workers to recommend that drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally disabled should be irreversibly sterilised – and the courts should be able to enforce this. Challenging his views will be three expert witnesses including a senior social worker, a drugs charity lawyer and a moral philosopher. Listeners also join in via emails and text-messages.”


TV: Barbara Harris on Hardtalk

12 August 2010

Available on iPlayer until 23.59 on 12 August 2010. There is also a clip on the BBC News website.

Barbara Harris of Project Prevention talks to Stephen Sackur: “Project Prevention, founded by Barbara Harris, offers cash to drug addicts prepared to accept sterilisation or long term contraception. It has raised a storm of criticism in the US. Is Project Prevention little more than eugenics dressed up in a cloak of compassion?”


Lecture: Legal change on new and controversial medical procedures: the case of contraceptive sterilisation

5 March 2010

Professor Penney Lewis, Centre of Medical Law and Ethics, KCL and University of London Research Fellow, School of Advanced Study
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Thursday 25 March, 6pm-7pm, all welcome.

Today, contraceptive sterilisation seems obviously to fall within the ‘medical exception’ which takes most medical treatment outside the criminal law. In addition to the patient’s consent, the medical exception requires a public policy justification. Contraceptive sterilisation was widely seen as unlawful in the UK until the late 1960s. This paper explores how legal change occurred in the absence of judicial or legislative intervention, contrasting the British experience with that of France, where a criminal prosecution for performing a vasectomy in 1937 meant that contraceptive sterilisation was seen as unlawful until eventual legislative intervention in 2001. I also examine the implications of this experience for legal change on other historically or currently controversial medical procedures including organ donation; non-therapeutic research; gender reassignment surgery; and amputation for body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) or body integrity identity disorder (BIID).


Seminar: Controversial Medical Procedures and the Criminal Law

18 February 2010

School of Advanced Study, University of London

Dean’s Seminar

Wednesday 24 February 2010
Senate House, South Block, Ground Floor
Room G37, at 12.30

Professor Penney Lewis, University of London Research Fellow, School of Advanced Study

At common law, medical practice is regulated by the criminal law in two main ways. First, by the law governing serious offences against the person or serious assault. Second, by the crime of maim or mayhem, which is a common law crime in some jurisdictions, and a statutory offence in others. Either at common law or in statute, a ‘medical exception’ exists which takes most medical treatment outside of both strands of criminal law regulation. In order to qualify for the medical exception, two elements must be present: the patient’s consent; and some form of public policy justification. Different versions of this public policy justification focus variously on the patient, the public, and the medical profession.

Most medical procedures are therapeutic and fall easily into the patient-focused narrowest version of the medical exception. Some controversial procedures have historically been separately regulated by the criminal law—abortion and euthanasia are the most prominent examples. In this paper I consider those new and controversial medical procedures (NCMPs) which are not separately regulated but fall to be dealt with by the criminal law.  They are controversial because they may be considered non-therapeutic. Thus, whether they fall within the medical exception is or has been the subject of some controversy. These include: cosmetic surgery; contraceptive sterilisation; organ donation; non-therapeutic research; gender reassignment surgery; and amputation for body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) or body integrity identity disorder (BIID). Formal legal change—judicial decisions or legislation—on NCMPs is rare. More commonly, legality is acknowledged retrospectively via state funding for some or all patients. Alternatively, legality can sometimes be inferred from civil or public law claims in which the underlying legality is assumed. Finally, government regulation may indicate lawfulness. Starting with the case of contraceptive sterilisation, widely seen as unlawful in the UK until the late 1960s, I examine how informal legal change on NCMPs occurs.

Admission is free.  All are invited
Wine will be offered.
Do bring your lunch.


Radio: Taking a Stand on financial incentives for long-term contraception and sterilisation

9 February 2010

BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 9 February, 9am or 9.30pm, available indefinitely via the iPlayer.

“Fergal Keane talks to Barbara Harris, whose organisation pays drug- and alcohol-addicted women to take long-term contraception.

Barbara’s experience of fostering babies born to those addicted to drugs and alcohol led her to one conclusion: that these women should be offered financial inducement to be sterilised, or given long-term contraception to stop them having children they are unable to care for. Founded over a decade ago in the United States, her organisation, Project Prevention, has so far made payments to over 3,000 women.”